Every day I manage scores of relationships, some professional some personal. My day is filled with likes, friends, followers, emails, texts, comments, posts and voice mails. My social net is wide, but it may also be shallow. What am I missing?
My friend David, #tmolshilshomcafe #author, always questioned my social networking wizardry. He doesn’t spend much time cultivating online friendships, instead he prefers a few good coffee buddies to my hundreds of cyber friends. It’s beginning to dawn on me that besides being addicted to the caffeine, David is addicted to intimacy, which could be what’s missing in my world on many levels.
But what the heck is intimacy anyway?
For my friend Leslie, #yogi #therapist #upsidedownnurse, intimacy is “sharing things that you would not normally share with others. It’s about becoming very vulnerable. There is a trust or secrecy to being intimate. It is a connection to someone where you feel a part of them and they feel a part of you. It’s the part you share together that no one else knows about that creates the intimacy.”
Leslie’s intimacy checklist:
- Feeling safe & accepted to share all
- Maintaining eye contact (a must)
- Giving undivided attention
- Being close and touching (physically)
- Mutual feeling that the other one’s world would break if sharing ceased
Ouch, very few of my relationships would pass this test especially the eye contact, undivided attention and physical closeness requirements.
As a side note, the other misunderstanding that surrounds intimacy is sex. For whatever flawed reason, the universe designed males to need sex to get intimate and females to need intimacy before moving to sex (advanced forgiveness is requested if there are exceptions, this scientific study is based on a focus group of five males). This setup is a prefect recipe for many trips to the pub and other ill repute establishments to drown out inevitable frustrations.
Let’s swing back to social media and why Facebook grew to 1 billion users seemingly overnight. Human beings are wired to connect. I think the underlying motivation to what we do is to make both emotional and physical connections. No wonder the internet exploded when the technology made it easy for us to reach out and poke anyone anytime. It was a show of a massive pent up demand to connect.
This need to connect is driving the mobile market through the roof. Today’s smartphones can connect you to anything that has an IP address, but they are helpless when it comes to establishing eye contact, touch and trust — the qualities of intimacy, our secret communication weapon.
About 30 years ago, before computers, internet or smartphones, I found myself on a schooner with about 20 other students heading downwind to the Virgin Islands. We lived, studied, sailed, cooked, and sang our way down island for months. We were vulnerable to the elements and to each other and those that were far away stayed that way. That schooner was a floating laboratory for intimacy. I still have a few close friends from that adventure.
But if I close my eyes and imagine all of us hanging off the rigging armed with iPhones searching for signal, I shudder and feel a loss knowing that I may never experience that kind of pure, present living again and even worse, my kids may also never know it. But then again they may have 659 followers that know what they had for breakfast.
So now what? There is no going back to that Wi-Fi-free-boat. We need to navigate a much more complex world filled with relationships that start offline and continue online and vice versa. The trick is to realize that the 522 friends you have online carry the potential for intimacy, but without an occasional physical contact it’s most likely not going to happen. Hence a coffee shop with Wi-Fi may make the most sense for my next connection.